Medicare Information Overload! What Does it All Mean?
By Ingrid Kundinger, Wisconsin Senior Medicare Patrol Project Manager
Phone calls, TV ads, and random mailings informing you of special offers. Sound familiar? If you are a Medicare beneficiary, you probably know all too well. The bottom line: Be Careful!
While the focus of unwanted and misleading offers is often conducted by telephone, there are two other solicitation tactics to be aware of, television commercials and postcards/mailings about Medicare plans. Though not necessarily fraudulent, they can be confusing and potentially cause issues with your providers, coverage, and prescription drugs.
Proceed with caution and know that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Have you seen the celebrity television commercials, encouraging you to call today to put money back in your pocket? Be careful. While more money sounds great, there is more to it than that. Eligibility criteria is not fully explained, and the plan may not be available in your area or may require you to change health care providers. Another word of warning: if you decide to call the toll-free number that is advertised, beware that you will be talking with an insurance agent, not directly with Medicare. The fine print states that this advertisement is not affiliated or endorsed by any governmental agency or Federal Medicare programs, plan availability varies by region or state. If you call, you are giving this insurance company permission to contact you and, in some cases, pressure you in to deciding about a Medicare plan without understanding it completely. This can have a negative impact on your health care as well as your pocket.
The postcards/mailers notifying you that you may be entitled to a new Medicare plan with additional benefits…again, be careful! While the mailers say the right things and promise to add money back to your monthly Social Security payments, there is often a catch. The mailers are advertisements for insurance and are not connected to or endorsed by any governmental agency, including Medicare. Calling the number provided could mean more calls from persistent insurance agents.
Medicare is complicated and tv commercials, mailings, and phone calls can make it more confusing. But finally, some good news! There are resources available that provide unbiased information at no charge.
Benefit Specialists at local Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) and aging units in every county and tribe offer benefits counseling. Your ADRC of Chippewa County phone number is 715-726-7777
Medigap Helpline 800-242-1060: toll-free helpline operated by the Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long-Term Care; provides counseling for Medicare beneficiaries on Medicare, Medicare supplement insurance, employer-based health insurance, Medicare Advantage plans, long term care insurance and related topics.
Wisconsin Medigap Part D and Prescription Drug Helpline 855-677-2783: toll-free helpline; answers questions from Wisconsin residents age 60+ about Medicare Part D and other prescription drug coverage options.
Wisconsin Senior Medicare Patrol 888-818-2611: toll-free helpline for Medicare beneficiaries and their families to call to report suspected Medicare fraud, errors, and abuse.